Thursday, December 16, 2010

Keep 'Em In, Harry Redux

Harry Reid gets it:
We are in session, if necessary, up to January 5th. That is the clock our Republican colleagues need to run out. It's a long clock.
He can only pass things (barring a successful bluff to go nuclear, which is highly unlikely at this point) if he has 60 votes (and more for START), and he can only pass as many things as he can pack in to the space available.  But if his statement today is for real, then he's not going to leave anything on the table.

I should note that this is a strong contrast with the way Reid and the Democrats dealt with the Scott Brown election at the beginning of the year.  That time, the Dems showed no urgency at all.  Yes, it probably would have been tough to get back and finish health care reform before Brown was sworn in.  But they certainly could have used what time they had remaining with 60 votes to push through one or two of the more controversial nominations (or, perhaps, a whole bunch of less controversial nominations).  Or, they could have taken care of one or two relatively minor pieces of legislation. 

Instead, Democrats seemingly were intimidated by GOP efforts to call such things unfair. 

Or, perhaps, they just didn't get why action was urgent if they wanted to pass as much of their agenda as possible.

This time, it's completely different.  Recall that Republicans did raise a ruckus back in October about the lame duck session being somehow illegitimate.  It isn't -- but Republicans have a much better case now than they did in January, when they had all of exactly one Congressional election to point to (and, at that point, the Democrats had been winning special elections fairly frequently).  And then there were this week's complaints about Christmas and something or another.  And how did Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama react to these complaints this time around?  They've simply ignored them, and got on with their business. 

By the way, I do wonder whether GOP over-the-top obstruction this week (that is, the threats to force full readings of bills) along with the completely ridiculous Christmas whining might have combined to help Reid convince the Democrats to stick around. 

Now, we still don't know what exactly can get through the Senate at the end of the day.  But Democrats should breath a sign of relief that Harry Reid isn't going to give up in the early afternoon; he's saying, as he should be, that he and the Democrats are going to sprint to the wire.  The truth is that Senate Majority Leaders are a lot less influential than most people seem to think; Senate rules and practices emphasize the rights of individual Senators, and so the leaders often can do little more than co-ordinate, as opposed to the way that the Speaker of the House really leads.  Even here, it's hard to say how much this is Reid's accomplishment, and how much it's just what his caucus wants.  Either way, however, he's making the correct play, this time.


  1. 'That is the clock our Republican colleagues need to run out. It's a long clock.'

    'Harry Reid isn't going to give up in the early afternoon; he's saying, as he should be, that he and the Democrats are going to sprint to the wire.'

    Said Buffy to Spike, 'Need a few more metaphors for that little mix?'

    That could be good for a game of 'identify the episode'.

  2. Yeah, I do want to apologize to everyone for some pretty awful writing, above. Good catch.

    Hmmm....I can't place the quote within an episode. Season six, maybe?

  3. So, now Jon, that you see Reid behaving like he has some gumption, do you see the argument Buchler and I have been pushing that Reid had, up until now, been pretty feckless?

    These are tactics he could ahve employed over the last two years, and never did until now.

  4. Matt,

    No, not particularly. I've said that I think he's made some mistakes, but on the big things that didn't get done -- climate/energy, comprehensive immigration -- he just didn't have the votes. The bottom line on the 111th is that they got an enormous amount done. Could they have done 10% more if he made perfect choices? Sure, that's possible -- but I can imagine a lot of ways things could have collapsed, too.

  5. Oh, I'm not saying he had the votes on energy or immigration. I'm just saying that he could have held GOP feet to the fire in other ways.

    The argument isn't so much over bills passed or not; it's over what those bills looked like. I think that, if he played his cards better, a lot of those "moderates" would have jumped on board for bigger and better things than they did.


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